Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2010

California Constitutional Provisions

Article XIII C Voter Approval for Local Tax Levies

Section 1

Section 1. Definitions. As used in this article:

(a) "General tax" means any tax imposed for general governmental purposes.

(b) "Local government" means any county, city, city and county, including a charter city or county, any special district, or any other local or regional governmental entity.

(c) "Special district" means an agency of the State, formed pursuant to general or a special act, for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions with limited geographic boundaries including, but not limited to, school districts and redevelopment agencies.

(d) "Special tax" means any tax imposed for specific purposes, including a tax imposed for specific purposes, which is placed into a general fund.

Construction.—Domestic water delivery through a pipeline is a property-related service within the meaning of Articles XIII D and XIII C, Section 3. Thus, once a property owner or resident has paid the connection charges and has become a customer of a public water agency, all charges for water delivery incurred thereafter are charges for a property-related service, whether the charge is calculated on the basis of consumption or is imposed as a fixed monthly fee. Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency v. Verjil, 39 Cal.4th 205. Under this article, a tax constitutes a general tax only when its revenue is placed into a general fund and is available for expenditure for any governmental purpose(s). A tax constitutes a special tax whenever the expenditure of its revenue is limited to specific purposes. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. City of Roseville, 106 Cal.App.4th 1178. All taxes imposed by any local government shall be deemed to be either general taxes or special taxes. The two types of taxes are distinguished by the purposes for which they were imposed, not the activity or rights on which they are imposed. Therefore, the specification of the purposes for the tax is important in determining whether a tax is special or general. Neilson v. City of California City, 133 Cal.App.4th 1296.

General Tax.—A fee levied upon residential property owners engaged in the rental of their properties, and imposed for the primary purpose of recovering the cost of collecting and administering a general tax levied on those same property owners, was itself a general tax. Weisblat v. City of San Diego, 176 Cal. App. 4th 1022.

Special tax.—A city's business improvement district assessment imposed on businesses by a city ordinance pursuant to the Parking and Business Improvement Area Law of 1989, Streets and Highways Code Section 36500 et. seq., is not a special tax within the meaning of Article XIII C and Article XIII D. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Assn. v. City of San Diego, 72 Cal.App.4th 230. Police, fire, and parks and recreation services can be "specific purposes" when specified to voters, and not necessarily "general governmental purposes." Neilson v. City of California City, 133 Cal.App.4th 1296.

Groundwater augmentation fee.—A groundwater augmentation fee to be charged to operators of wells who extract water from the wells for the purposes of paying the costs of purchasing, capturing, storing, and distributing supplemental water for use, while not a tax or assessment, is a property-related fee or charge "imposed . . . as an incident of property ownership," and, thus, subject to constitutional preconditions for the imposition of such charges. Pajaro Valley Water Mgmt. Agency v. Amrhein, 150 Cal.App.4th 1364.